There have been some encouraging financial results from operators over the last few weeks, with many reporting healthy seasonal trading patterns and a positive start to 2017.
But no matter how solid the performance, all have been unable to sign off their correspondence without referencing future ‘headwinds’ or anticipated margin pressure.
Now you could argue that these are nothing but corporate disclaimers — a kind of ‘we did warn you’ in the event that targets aren’t hit — but when the same message is being delivered on such a widespread scale it would be foolish to dismiss it as paranoia.
Cost management is set to become a massive issue for operators this year and how it manifests itself in terms of catering equipment procurement is a question that all suppliers would love to know the answer to.
Suppliers I have spoken to that increased their prices at the start of this year claim there has been no adverse reaction to their upwards adjustments. It could be that the general sense of inevitability towards post-Brexit inflation has simply led to buyers accepting their fate, or it could be that it’s still too early for the true impact to be felt on the bottom line.
Whatever the case, it’s not just the building and equipping of kitchens that will cost foodservice operators more this year. Raw materials — i.e. food — have also been rising, so much so that buying specialist Lynx Purchasing recently advised operators to take “urgent action” to tackle the impact of food and drink inflation on their business.
It expects the first quarter of the year to deliver a wake-up call to many restaurants, pubs and hotels in the form of supplier invoices for products bought during the key trading month of December.
Suppliers themselves remain under immense pressure and operators should prepare for more challenges on this front later in the year by working as closely with their supply chain as they can. In this climate, it is understandable that every purchase has to be accounted for.
If anything, it will certainly help to keep the supply chain focused.